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Hundreds of Head Start Slots Eliminated For Hoosier Kids

July 29, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS - Cutting enrollment is the way most of Indiana's Head Start programs are dealing with the nearly 5.3 percent in cuts to funding resulting from the federal sequester.

According to Cheryl Miller, executive director of the Indiana Head Start Association, that means hundreds of Hoosier youngsters will miss out on preschool education and services starting this fall, with kindergarten teachers noticing the effect a year from now.

"We're going to have elementary schools that are going to be impacted by this too, because those children probably are going to come to kindergarten not having had any kind of high-quality preschool experience," she warned.

Miller said that besides cutting enrollment, Head Start programs around the state have had to cut teachers, managers and in some cases entire classrooms. She added that the ripple effect from such cuts also hits families.

"We have a lot of parents whose children are in Head Start and they're able to go to work, or they're able to go back to school," she said. "So, the impact that we make on families is going to be adversely affected by the fact that their children will not be enrolled in Head Start."

Miller said the cuts are being made in such a way as to not alter the integrity of the programs.

"That's one of the strong messages that Head Start and Early Head Start received from the Office of Head Start at the federal level, was we are not in any way to compromise the quality of this program."

The Association director said that over 15,600 kids were in Head Start programs in Indiana last year and about half that many are typically on waiting lists. This year the waiting lists will be longer.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN